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Death sentence for 26 Bangladeshis for abduction, murder

A court in the city of Narayanganj has found a total of 35 people guilty of the murders of rivals of a politician from the ruling Awami League. Those convicted include members of the elite security unit.

Twenty-six people were sentenced to death by hanging on Monday, and another nine were handed prison sentences at the end of a trial that has gripped Bangladesh.

The court heard that in 2014, local politician Nur Hossain hired officers from Bangladesh's Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) to assassinate his arch-rival Nazrul Islam and four of his aides.

A lawyer who filmed the abductions outside the stadium on his mobile phone was then kidnapped, along with his driver.

All seven of the victims were killed and had their bellies cut, and their bodies dumped in a local river.

 Nur Hossain in Narayanganj

Local councillor Nur Hossain escaped to India temporarily

Hossain, along with ex-commanding officer of the RAB Tareque Sayeed Mohammad, and 15 other elite security unit officers are among those to be put to death.

Politician 'ordered the killings'

Hossain, who was a member of the ruling Awami League party's district unit, fled to neighboring India after the murders but was later picked up in Kolkata and extradited.

"We're satisfied. We finally got justice," Shakhawat Hossain Khan, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, told reporters outside the courtroom, adding that the prosecution faced difficulties in bringing the RAB officers to trial.

Rights activists say the security forces frequently carry out unlawful killings and are effectively able to operate in a climate of impunity.

Opposition parties say hundreds of their activists have been abducted during Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's eight years in power and never seen again, although the government denies any involvement by the security forces.

Twenty-three of those convicted were present in the crowded court when the verdict was announced but the other 12 are still at large.

 As well as the death sentences, the remaining nine were ordered to spend between seven and 17 years in jail.

mm/rt (AFP, dpa)